| Posted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 11:54 am
Subject: Leg 3
|Leg - 3 Ferries Tactical Advantage or Folly
5 am came early but I was up, showered and ready to start on the third leg. Once again the hotel hadn't done me any favors. My room was on the fifth floor and as far from the elevator as it could be, several hundred feet. I knew that getting to breakfast and the brief would take awhile, so I started early. It did take a bit but at least I would get something. I arrived before 6 and the staff really wasn't prepared, very little food came out, as soon as it did riders took it away.
The packets were distributed; we were briefed that 60,000 points total should classify riders as finishers. I felt I was in a good position with 35,000 and that I had built a good safety cushion. I headed back to the room as soon as I could to avoid the elevator wait. We already had the bonus locations so this would be an exercise in plugging in the points and finding a route that would allow a finishing position. I had previously looked at the locations and knew that the choice was between a route north through Canada and a southern route through the desert southwest. I was already biased toward the north. I had spent the past 18 months practicing on the roads that the southwest route would use. I had ridden the roads on the northern route as well but it had been 5 years and I recalled the riding fondly.
Leg 3 was the longest, 91 hours, which gave me the feeling that I had plenty of time to make some pretty big mileage. Still I was operating on a 20% time buffer; 72 hours riding was my target. I immediately dismissed the bonuses in Alaska and Florida as too difficult. That left two pretty clear routes. If the northern route had enough points and was time feasible I would start on it without looking at the southern route. The northern route would yield a maximum 36,404 points in 72 hours of riding. My route had a 10,000-point cushion. This cushion would allow me to eliminate major bonus locations if time became an issue. I didn?t analyze the southern route until working on this write up. It was 5000 points and 500 miles shorter than the Northern route, but the roads were much faster which would have allowed the ride to be completed in approximately 60 hours.
I finished packing and headed to the parking lot a little before my anticipated start time of 10 am. I met Lisa Landry on her way out of the hotel. We chatted briefly about my route, when I told her I had decided on the northern route, she looked at me with a raised eyebrow and gave me a "are you completely stupid" look. I reassured myself that it was the right decision looked out into the lot and realized that I was one of the last riders left. Still I didn't feel tremendous pressure to rush. I ensured everything was well packed and headed to my first bonus.
One of the things that threw me off a bit was the reuse of quite a few of the leg two bonuses. These bonuses placed approximately 3600 points in and around San Francisco. I knew I'd eat up half a day getting those points but they were just too easy not to attempt. I would end up knocking them out fairly efficiently.
The first stop was the California State Railroad Museum, a short ride from the hotel. I'd meet two other riders here and get a boost to my feeling that my timing was not completely off kilter. Following the Railroad Museum were a series of Pony Express bonus locations, that followed along I-80 West to the Bay Bridge. Several of these locations were very close to the Big Money Rally bonus locations that I had visited earlier in the year. The roads were relatively familiar. This made it fairly easy to map my timing in my head and understand if the roads would support getting me out of downtown efficiently.
Both the Pony Express Wharf and USS Pampanito Submarine Museum bonuses would be challenging, as they were located in the downtown wharf area. Even on a slow day the Wharf area is crowded with
tourists. Mid-day on the 8th of July was a beautiful summer day and the tourists were out in force. The Pony Express Wharf Bonus is located on the side of a building on a busy corner with limited parking available. It's a good thing I'm on the Ninja and I slide between two parked cars hop of the bike and head the 50 feet to the corner to get the photo. A parking enforcement Officer in her electric tricycle gave me a funny look but continued marking cars and passed me by. Excellent I really wasn't sure how'd she'd react to my snuggling between two cars. I got to the corner located the sign and needed to figure out how to get the shot. As I was standing there another rider pulled up. I asked him if he'd take the shot for me. Finally I was able to keep the wind from blowing my flag around we got the shot and I headed to the USS Pampanito Submarine Museum, located in the heart of Pier 39. Traffic on the pier was tight as always but not too bad. I was able to keep moving until I was about a block away before things really slowed. Going slow at this point wasn't a bad thing because it allowed me to identify motorcycle friendly "parking" spots (otherwise known as small pieces of random asphalt not in the street and not really in a pay lot). I found one directly across from the museum with two scooters parked in it and enough room that I could squeeze in, hop off and get my bonus shot. I gave my self a pat on the back for having a smaller rally bike. If I had been on my Norge fitting into some of these tight spots would not have been possible.
Off to the Golden Gate Bridge. I was headed out of down town, it was 1:30 pm I was making good time. The Golden Gate Bridge bonus consisted of two parts, a shot from the south end and one from the north end. The south end was busier than I recall it being the last time I was there but I didn't have an issue pulling into a no parking area in front of a police car. Hop of the bike get the shot and head to the northern end. The northern end was jammed with vehicles attempting to park. Again I found an area that
wasn't intended to be a parking area turned my bike sideways got the shot and began a 10-minute 400-foot exit out of the viewing area. I headed north to CA-37, headed across the northern end of San Pablo Bay to rejoin I-80 and capture the last Pony Express bonus, in the bay area before merging onto I-505 north and making the trek to Oregon on I-5.
I-5 through the farm country isn't particularly interesting but it passed quickly. North of Redding I-5 runs through the Shasta Trinity National Forest. This section of the interstate has broad sweeping curves with significant elevation changes and spectacular mountain vistas. Needless to say this section was a blast to ride. I was entering Medford, Oregon well before sunset; I was still making good time. As the sun set I continued north on I-5 focused on my goal of reaching the Columbia River Maritime Museum bonus in Astoria, Washington by first light. I would travel through the night making two stops to take what I've termed Don Arthur power naps. Don made a presentation at the IBA International meet that was very important for my understanding of sleep. The information he provided wasn't new to me,but hearing his presentation really brought home the concept of short naps to extend performance while awake and that has stuck with me.
My first stop was at a rest area on what seemed to be an Indian Reservation; I've since forgotten the name of the stop. It was around midnight; I was feeling like I would nod off and made the decision to get some rest. The rest stop was located near a travel plaza and casino was nearly empty and very clean and well kept. The night air was cool but not cold. I removed my helmet set my screaming meanie alarm for 40 minutes and laid down on a picnic table bench. It took a few minutes to nod off so I got 20-30 minutes of rest before the alarm woke me. I headed down to the travel plaza, had a quick cup of coffee to brush any residual cobwebs from my head and headed north again on I-5.
My next stop was between 2 and 3 in morning. I'm not exactly sure where I was but it's likely that I was in Washington State or at least very near the border. This is my natural sleep lull and again I pulled into a rest area, this time a state maintained one. This rest area was very different from the previous one. Almost all the parking spots were taken. Most people were sleeping in their cars. A young woman with her dog and a sign asking for food sat near me watching, attempting to get some rest while still remaining alert enough to have some comprehension of what was going on around her. She had been there when I pulled in and her semi-alert presence gave me pause for concern about stopping at this particular stop. It wasn't as peaceful as my previous stop but I needed a quick nap so I walked over to an empty park bench with my alarm set to 40 minutes, sat down and laid my head on the table. I got a fitful 20 minutes or so of rest and decided to head on as staying longer wouldn't provide any better rest than I had gotten. As soon as I got up from the bench two men who had apparently seen me got out of their vehicle and took my spot. I would imagine that sleeping in a closed automobile would get to be unpleasant fairly quickly. The night air was damp but fresh. I had pulled my motorcycle into a spot that was almost directly in front of the restroom and was sitting on it getting my gear on, as I did the young woman and I watched each other in silence. I wondered what lead her to this spot and where she might be headed. As I was getting ready to leave a man about her age got out of an old station wagon walked over to her and set what was left of a grocery store rotisserie chicken next to her before heading back to his car and the two men he was traveling with. No one said anything my helmet was on and I headed back to the freeway the old station wagon pulling onto the freeway behind me. The entire stop was a bit surreal and has left me wondering about people?s lives and the communities that exist in the shadows, that we don't notice.
It was still dark when I turned west onto US-30 for Astoria. I could tell I was beginning to near the coast as the damp air turned into a foggy, morning marine layer. It was cold, cutting through my jacket, which I now wished that I had the liner for. I had opted not to bring the liner to save space. I pressed on knowing that the sun was raising and would warm me as the day went on. The fog wasn't terribly bad but it was beading up on my visor, which required frequent wipes from my finger wiper. At least it was something to keep my mind off the
cold as I traveled along the densely wooded section of the Columbia River.
The forest was beautiful, but it also shielded the road from the sun. While I admired the forest?s beauty I simultaneously cursed it. It was around 5:30 when I pulled into Nehalem, Washington as much to stop and warm up as to get some gas. It was a Cliff Bar breakfast and several locals gave me odd looks as they bounced into the minimart in old pickup trucks for their morning coffee. It wasn't long after that I reached the Columbia River Maritime Museum bonus. The Lightship Columbia is moored behind the museum. I hopped of the motorcycle made my way to the quay wall and got the shot. Astoria was fairly quiet a few people were out walking their dogs, other than that I hadn't seen any movement in town. As I was departing Astoria, I saw whom I thought was Sal Terranova pulling into the Museum parking lot. Good I'm not the last to arrive. I always wonder where I am relative to others when you haven't' seen another rider for many hours. It's comforting to seen someone you know at least every once in while. No matter I was backtracking on US- 30 to get to I-5. Oddly everything was fresh with the sun up I didn't recognize most of the road I was on as it took me back to I-5.
I continued north on I-5 heading into the Seattle-Tacoma morning commute. Traffic was heavy but moving at a decent pace. Any sleepiness I had was long gone. The cold damp morning had taken it away. I was awake and alert as I came to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge bonus. I was there with another rider, Josh Mountain I think, the same rider I had played leapfrog with in Flint, Michigan. TheTacoma Narrows Bridge bonus was a little tricky in that the photo spot was on a fairly steep hill, which made parking your motorcycle very important. I make a habit of never parking in a down hill orientation, a habit that served me well during the rally and the benefits of which were reinforced as I witnessed several other riders not do so and tumble over while stopped.
The next bonus was a short ride away and wasn't available until 10 am. I had plenty of time to stop at a rest stop in what seemed to be downtown Seattle. It was an odd location for a rest stop but I didn't see any reason not to take full advantage of the few minutes I had. I arrived at the Museum of Flight Seattle just prior to 10 am. The place was full of school groups on field trips; I didn't see any other riders. The walk from my parking spot to the Museum gift store would take a few minutes, I was about a one- tenth a mile away. I arrived in the store at 10:03, walked up to the register. The man behind the counter stated ?you'll want to buy a post card from the rack by the entrance.? He handed me a receipt and said, "Take anyone you want." Clearly I was not the first rider he had helped. Another rider came in as I was leaving we chatted for a few seconds and I headed back to the motorcycle to continue on. I was exactly on my time- line, things could not be going better.
Here's where things go horribly wrong. My next planned bonus is the British Columbia Aviation Museum in Sidney British Columbia. This bonus would require a ferry ride to Victoria. I hadn't spent anytime calculating the ferry route. I had considered dropping the bonus altogether to save myself from dealing with the ferry. But I was currently on/ahead of schedule so there really wasn't any reason not to take the trip. In addition the ferry would allow me to get a bite to eat as well as get some well needed rest as my plan was to ride through the night again to reach the Canadian "Last Spike" bonus, to the east of Kamloops.
I followed my Garmin directions to the nearest ferry terminal, the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry that would lead me to the Blackball departing from Port Angeles Washington. The Blackball was a one and one half hour trip to Victoria that would provide me an excellent opportunity to rest and eat, but it was a two and half hour ride to Port Angeles. It was a road and route that I had taken several times in the past and I was relatively familiar with it, so it seemed like a good plan. When I arrived at the Edmonds- Kingston Ferry terminal and spoke with the toll operator he immediately advised me that the Anacortes-San Juan Ferry would be a better choice. After some consultation with his co-worker we weren't sure of either choice. I decided to stick with what I knew and continue on. I had a nice ride out to Port Angeles. Mostly two lane roads following what must have been retired folks, as they weren't in any hurry to get wherever it was they were headed. By the time I had gotten off the US-104 and onto US-101 where the road opened up I had lost at least 30 minutes dealing with traffic. I arrived at the Ferry Terminal approximately 1 pm, the terminal area was empty, my lucky day! I'm the only person traveling to Victoria. I checked in with the ferry operator, it turned out that I'm not the only person going to Victoria ... the ferry had departed just before I arrived. Well I'm stuck here now I'm exhausted and need some rest, I'll just have to wait for the next ferry, in the mean time I'll get some sleep.
The terminal was quiet and empty so I sat on a bench and closed my eyes. The quiet didn?t last long. A Japanese family came into the terminal to purchase tickets. They had several small children who were quite loud not that they were particularly loud but the their high-pitched voices echoed in the empty terminal building. It irritated me as I attempted to sleep through the racket to no avail. In the mean time my timeline was bouncing through my head. Now wait a minute if the ferry doesn't depart until four I won't make it to the British Columbia Aviation Museum until around six pm, plenty of time for day-light but then getting out of Victoria will take an additional hour or two that doesn't put me on the road to Kamloops until around 8 pm ... that?s six hours behind schedule at least. I really don't have 6 hours of cushion. I pulled out my laptop and immediately start running the numbers ... I'm screwed! If I stay on my plan, I'll be time barred by more than a couple of hours. Still I'll need at least 10,000 points to reach the 60,000 needed to finish and I don't see 10,000 points between Port Angeles and Cranberry that are reachable in time. In fact a quick time analysis shows that taking the shortest route back is pushing the time window. But wait ... I'm not done yet. There are two bonuses that are kind of lined up with a return to Cranberry. The Wallowa Lake Tramway worth 2500 points and the Hanging Flume Historical Site worth 7500 points. Those two will get me a finish but with no room for stopping. I might be able to make it back in time. That's my new plan and I needed to execute it immediately.
I don't think I could have placed myself more far out of position. I made best time back to the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry and made it just prior to its departure. By the time I debarked in Seattle it was four pm rush hour and I was attempting to get out of town along with everyone else. Traffic on I-90 east was heavy and slow. Eventually it would pick up speed and then thin out as I reached the US-18 south turn-off. I continued east on I-90 into central Washington. The mountains were dry and it was warm but the scenery remained spectacular. The mountain air even though warm was cool compared to heat of the Columbia River Valley I turned south on WA-243 following the Columbia through farm country. This area was mostly unpopulated and the roads smooth and open. I would need fuel before making it to Richland. When I saw the sign for Mattawa, I made the turn onto Road 24-SW.
I rode into Mattawa at dusk, the town was mostly quiet. It looked very much like a sleepy southwest desert town on the border with Mexico, just one street leading through town. Something was odd but I couldn't determine what it was. I pulled into the service station and it hit me. This was definitely a reservation town and the odd part was that everyone who was out was under 25 years old. Most were early to late teens, including the clerk in the store. I changed my visor to clear, ate a Cliff Bar and refilled my water. Just about everyone who was out, 15 - 20 folks were gathered near me as I headed out of town continuing east on Road 24-SW. Almost as soon as I reached the edge of town the road turned to heavy loose gravel as it was being resurfaced. I made my way through the gravel slowly picking up speed as my traction and confidence improved. I made the turn south onto Road L. Thankfully it was clear and arrow straight. Just prior to rejoining WA-243 the road broke into long sweeping downhill turns. I was several hundred feet above the Columbia river, the sun setting to my right and a large metal truss bridge crossing the Columbia, with fields flanking the flat lands on either side, it
was quite a sight. Turning south onto WA-24/240 crossing the Columbia I hit several swarms of small bugs that created quite a screen on my visor. Fortunately the state of Washington had the foresight to put a Rest Area about a half-mile down the road. I stopped to clear my visor. I had unknowingly entered the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. I continued on WA-240 south, in the dark, reaching Richland around 1130 pm. I was ready for some sleep and the rest bonus started at midnight. I wouldn't make my goal of reaching Enterprise, Oregon tonight. My first stop was at a Holiday Inn Express, the clerk said they were full for the night, I suspect he may have gotten a whiff of me before I came through the door and considered his other guests before deciding he was full. There was a Day's Inn in Kennewick a few miles from where I was. I made my way there checked into a first floor room and got my LD Comforts into a machine for a proper cleaning. After a shower and pulling the laundry back into the room, I was asleep.
I got a full six hours and woke without the help of the alarm. After a quick breakfast and getting the bike packed it was 8 am, a full rest bonus, which I needed to get the required points. I knew that I'd need to make a decision to either drop the Hanging Flume bonus and DNF on points or be time barred with enough point to finish. It's a decision that I would mull over for the next several hours as I made my way to Wallowa Lake Tramway. It was already warm at 8 am as I departed the Days Inn in Kennewick. I headed east on US-12 turning south on WA-125, which quickly turned into OR-11. I turned east on OR-204. I don't recall too much of this road as my thoughts were on how I planned to DNF.
At Eglin, OR I turned East onto US-82 Hell's Canyon National Scenic Byway. Wow, what a gorgeous road. Any thoughts I had of a DNF were replaced by awe of the beautiful road laid before me. Enterprise came too quickly. I didn't need fuel but my planned return route would have me backtracking on US-82, almost three hours to Baker City, and I wanted to determine the condition of the road that short cut the distance by more than half. My thinking was even if the road was in poor condition and I could only make 30 miles per hour I could make up some time that I desperately needed. I asked the station attendant about a short cut to Baker city. He was in his early 20's and appeared to be local, he should be a good source of information. He thought about it for a minute and said "the road to the overlook? I don't know if it goes through. I've never been past the overlook." Apparently he was a little too local, having never left Hell's
Canyon. Joseph followed Enterprise almost immediately. Joseph is a cool artist/tourist destination it would have been a nice place to stop and explore a while. The road around Wallowa Lake was short and I reached the far side quickly and the Tramway bonus.
It was 1130 as I departed Wallowa Lake I was seriously behind and needed to make up some time. I made a decision to attempt the "short cut" to Baker City. I turned on OR-350, also known as Wallowa Mountain Road or NF-39. The Garmin recommended that I make a U-turn but I was already committed. The road turned bad almost immediately. It went from two lanes to one-and-half to one in less than a mile. Then the surface turned to one big pothole I could still make 30 miles-per-hour on the straighter sections but my average was probably closer to 15-20. I wasn't making up time like I would like but I wasn't losing much if the road remained passable. I had passed a sign indicating that Baker City was 62 miles so at least the road planned to get me there. I also had the feeling that I was on the bad section of road and was hopeful that it would smooth out and allow me to pick up speed. As I headed up the mountain I started meeting logging trucks in the corners, which increased my caution and further decreased my speed. Eventually, the road straightened my speed increased to 40, then 50. I felt a snap and something hit me in the back. The bungee holding my laptop onto the bike had failed. I slowed and turned around. There was my waterproof laptop bag lying in the middle of the road. The bag that I kept all my spare cords and USB sticks had some how exited the bag. The bag was still closed so I have no idea how this bag made it out of the exterior bag, but I was pretty sure that the computer was toast. No need to worry about that now. As I was re-securing what was left of the bag on the bike, a forest service truck stopped to ensure I was ok. The ranger asked where I was headed. I told her Baker City and asked if it would be faster for me to continue or turn around and backtrack. She thought for a bit and said it was probably a wash, the road ahead was very twisty. I thought about it 40 miles or 200. The 40-mile route had to be quicker. The road smoothed out turned back into two lanes shortly after I resumed my route. Halfway was 20 miles ahead. The road was twisty but fun. It required all my attention but my average speed was up to 45-50. I had even mostly forgotten my leaking fork seal. I made my way through the National forest promptly and into Halfway to re-fill on water and recompose myself. I was on US-86 west to join I-84 east at Baker City, it was only 20 miles, the road was down hill with sweeping curves and great vistas.
The temperature rose 20 degrees as I turned onto I-84 east. I didn't have any doubt where Hell's canyon got it name. Still I felt lucky that it wasn't a really hot day. I had made a quick stop at a rest area on I-84. It was a green oasis in the mostly brown canyon lands that lead to Idaho. A woman and her dog had stopped there as well. She had spread out a blanket and was napping in the shade of a tree on the cool green grass, her dog resting beside her. An afternoon nap seemed like an inviting idea, but I needed to press on. The heat sapped a lot of energy as I continued to Ontario, OR just before passing into Idaho. I?d stop get gas, refill my water and eat another bar.
I would stay on I-84 until it merged with I-80 east in Utah. I had made my decision if was going to DNF, I?d prefer to DNF at the scoring table than for being time barred. I entered
Utah around nine pm. I was a bit tired but there weren?t any good rest stops so I continued on into Wyoming. I-80 through Wyoming was becoming very familiar. The wind would pick up, but compared to my previous trips through it seemed insignificant. Wyoming passed in the night and I emerged at the Nebraska state line just after sunrise. I?d stop a the rest area here as I had before for a short rest of maybe 20 minutes. I
didn?t get any sleep but I felt refreshed as I rejoined the road east. I was now in a race against the clock. I was hoping to make up some time pushing the limits of a pace that would keep me from being noticed by the local law enforcement. It seemed however that fate would prevent me from pushing any boundaries. I was headed straight into a 20-25 mlle an hour head wind and the speed limit was all the little 250cc engine would allow, except for brief sprints behind big rigs. As soon as I would pass them the wind would slow me to the speed limit. These are the conditions in which a larger motorcycle would have been an advantage; of course better planning would have been the ultimate advantage.
The wind eventually died down but not until I reached Lincoln. I was entering Omaha at the peak of traffic. I?m thinking that if I can make it to Davenport before mid-night I may be able to make the scoring table. I entered Davenport right around midnight by-passing the city on I-280. I was running low on fuel which was scarce on the by-pass so I asked the Garmin to find the nearest station, it was a couple of exits ahead in Rock Island Illinois, a ways from the freeway. The freeway was empty and dark at this point there is very little lighting here. As I was approaching my exit I noticed some movement on the road and I was closing on it quickly. A raccoon and several little ones, I applied my front brake, I knew I was tired but it didn?t seem to have had the stopping power that it should have. I missed the raccoon family, splitting the difference between the small ones and the adult, made the exit and applied the front brake hard. It definitely wasn?t working well and I almost went through a red light into the intersection. No real worry, as there wasn?t any traffic on the surface streets either but I?m concerned about being able to stop when required. I?d need to give myself an extra safety margin as I continued on. The gas station was a mile through city streets and another two miles to get me back on course, that was 25 minutes I didn?t have to waste. Back onto I-80 I passed on the Indiana turnpike around four-thirty AM. I was getting hungry at this point and having driven through my natural sleep lull, I was a bit foggy and stopped a rest area for a bite and some rest. I got 15 minutes rest but no food, as the fast food joints were not open this early. Who would have figured? I continued on, the morning air near the great lakes was damp and cool. I found myself again wishing I had the liner for my jacket, this time hoping the sun would not rise as each passing minute brought the rally finish closer. It was 8AM and I was still four hours from the finish. That was a pretty low feeling. Time seemed to slow and the stiffness of 10 days of riding was settling in. These last four hours would be the longest of my ride. As I was having my own pity party in my head a Gray Honda Odyssey pulled along side me, in the window was a sign that read ?GO IBR.? It made me smile and gave me a little lift. Nine AM turned to 10 AM and I was still 120 miles from Cranberry, the rally was over, I was still on the road.
I arrived at the hotel around noon pulling into the drive, the first thing I saw was my daughter bouncing down the way with a big smile on her face as reached out to hug me. Then my lovely wife, looking just as beautiful as the day she walked down the aisle of The Little Church in the Pines almost 30 years ago. There was Raewyn bubbly and bright as always, everyone wearing their Team 250 Green shirts. I may not have finished but my ride was the best of the rally. 97 other riders might disagree and talked about it over dinner as we celebrated those who finished and the excellent choices they made in their riding.
I would like to thank the rally staff for an excellent event that was from my point of view flawlessly conducted, my wonderful family who put up with two years of rally shenanigans, Doug and company for his great assistant in Sacramento and all of the people who followed along for the ride and provided encouragement for me to continue.
I?m not done ... I just haven?t finished yet.